What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a test that doctors use to look for and remove abnormalities in the colon or rectum, such as adenomas, polyps and inflammation of the colon. If left untreated, these growths may turn into colon or rectal cancer. A colonoscopy is key in the investigation of the colon and rectum and is also used to help doctors identify colon cancer. During the procedure, the entire colon and rectum are examined using a small, thin tube with an attached camera. This device is inserted into the rectum for observation.
A colonoscopy can identify inflammation and infections in the bowel too and is a necessary procedure for ensuring the health of your digestive system. If polyps are present in the bowels, doctors can conduct a colonoscopic polyp removal during a colonoscopy to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Early detection of colon or bowel cancer is key for effective treatment and recovery.
Who needs one?
Everybody should undergo a complete colonoscopy by the time they turn 50. By this age, the overall risk of developing colorectal cancer increases and early detection is vital for effective treatment. In fact, bowel cancer is the most common internal cancer in South Africa and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths.
Family history of bowel cancer is very important criteria in assessing your risk for developing this disease and your need for a colonoscopy. Almost all cases of bowel cancer start as polyps that can be identified through a colonoscopy.
Depending on your family history and past medical history, you should have a colonoscopy every five to ten years. You should also consider the procedure if you experience abdominal pain, symptoms of anaemia, rectal bleeding, change of bowel habit and diarrhoea.
If you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, or experience unexplained weight loss, you should also consider a colonoscopy.
How is a Colonoscopy performed?
Colonoscopy preparation is an important part of the colonoscopy procedure. Preparation is usually done at home, following directions given to you in our rooms.
The aim of colonoscopy preparation is to eliminate all faecal matter from the colon so that we can conduct the colonoscopy with a very clear view of the intestinal wall. You will be given oral laxatives two nights before your colonoscopy to start your bowel preparation.
Although you may eat breakfast the day before your colonoscopy, you will need to be on a fluid diet for the rest of the day. You will be encouraged to drink water throughout the day, and four glasses of a medicine called Picoprep will have to be drunk every two hours from midday until 18h00 to clean the colon. The medicine will be provided to you in sachet form and must be dissolved in hot water and allowed to cool before drinking.
It is imperative that you drink a large amount of fluid before your colonoscopy to prevent dehydration.
Your colonoscopy will be performed in our private practice rooms at Fairfield Medical Suites in Claremont. This reduces the cost of hospitalisation and anaesthetist fees associated with an in-hospital colonoscopy procedure. If, however, you are at risk of medical complications, the procedure may be performed in hospital.
You will be given conscious sedation during the colonoscopy procedure. Dr Elliot will first inflate your bowel with air to allow for a better view of your colon before inserting a small, tube-like instrument into your rectum with an attached camera. This will allow him to examine your bowels and remove tissue for testing if necessary. The colonoscopy should take 30-45 minutes to complete, and you will be allowed to return home an hour afterwards.